Thursday, January 19, 2012

Art and economics

One justification trotted out whenever any group wants to crack down on online distribution is 'piracy' or copyright infringement in general. Just some random thoughts on this.

You shouldn't need need to go through publishers to repay an artist for his work. Anyone can set up a paypal link these days, webcartoonists having discovered this a long time ago. Donate to the creator of a work directly based on the value you find in the work, not to the parasites taking the lion's share of 'published' works and deciding for you, before giving you access to the work, what it's worth to you.

The creator should always be given credit in name, but profit should be decided by the worth others find in the work. That this will result in the lowest-common-denominator overshadowing quality is inevitable, but this is still better than the current system, where existing capital(ists) can set prices and use advertising in order to reinforce the trend towards the lowest-common-denominator.

Paper is outdated. I like books. I don't like having to read in a chair. I will have to adapt to using my cheap knock-off of an i-pad instead, so i can still read in bed without justifying the insane waste of printing, transporting, protecting and stocking dead trees. I like books. My whole family does. We were raised around them. My grandfather, mother, uncle and myself spent most of our lives in rooms walled with book-cases. We like the smell of ink. We finger the pages of a book as if every legend, every play, every fairytale, every romance and war story were our own personal bible. We are attuned to the smell of moldy paper. We learn from five years of age the proper way to handle books so as not to ruin them, to preserve book jackets and never crease the pages. We enter libraries as if we're coming home. It is painful to me to abandon the comfort of this childhood nostalgia, but it has to go. We can do better now. The initial material investment for the creation of an i-pad pales in comparison to the cost of a thousand, ten thousand volumes of books. It is a part of my childhood, my identity, but books (or at least their widespread commercial use) and newspapers have to go the way of goose-quills, vellum and scribes.

This also reshapes the lifestyle of most artists. In the past, the creation of art was limited by distribution. Much of the cost of a novel or a CD was taken up by the creation not of the art itself, the expression, the image, sound or words, but of the medium, the physical mode of delivery. These days, a computer, the same machine which can bring us our news, allow us to communicate and work from home is also one of the best repositories of works of art. What's the material cost of e-mailing a picture? Five joules? One millionth of the cost of your computer's wear and tear? One quadrilionth of the wear and tear on the network you're using?

I'm not even sure if copyright was ever a valid concept. It is now becoming an outdated one. If you like something i've written, feel free to reproduce it. Say it was first said by Werwolfe, and plaster it on every web page until i'm more quoted than Nietzsche and Jesus combined. Then pay me whatever you think my contribution to the development of your ego, your mind, your self, is worth, whether it's five cents or a limousine.

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